c.1905 John Gindlesperger Mandolin

I just popped a set of new strings on this mando and realized that, while I shared this over at Mandolin Cafe a few years ago, I probably didn't share it here on the blog. This mando has been in my family since it was built (c.1900-1910) and is actually the instrument that first got me really interested in playing music seriously. At the time, though, it played horribly. I'm surprised my hands survived it!

It was made by John Gindlesperger in Kansas City, Missouri. The only other Gindlesperger instrument I've seen is a harp guitar seen on this page. I would love to know of others, though!

The quality of the instrument is obvious when you hear it and play it but the workmanship is odd and folksy (including a whopper of a neck). It has sort of the same quirky qualities that nicer tamburitza-family instruments have and also that Hawaiian-made ukes from the teens and 20s have: they're obviously not factory instruments and aren't built to precise standards.

Tone and volume on this guy is superb and I've got to say that's what got me into mandolin instruments. I only realized later how lucky I was to have played this one first since so many "beginner" instruments are just really nothing more than more refuse for the landfill.

The headstock is cut-off flat in the Martin fashion and has a rosewood veneer.

Ebony fretboard with pearl dots. The scale on this instrument is 14 3/8" which is quite long for a mandolin at the time (they usually had 13" scales when this was made) but also short for a mandola (which tended to be 15" to 17" at the time). I string it with 40w-11 "bluegrass" gauge mando strings and tune it a step above a conventional mandola, starting with a low D for DAEB tuning. When playing with others I find this tuning far more useful than standard CGDA because it's easy enough to play in D, A, and G (standard traditional keys) while also making E a very fun key to play in (which pops up with lots of folk songs and blues).

Considering the bulk of the build and the strength of the neck, I'm almost certain that this was intended for heavy mandola strings and the whole instrument itself responds very much better to mandola-range tunings with a good, focused, warm and throaty low-end.

Fun, folksy rosette.

This has a nice plated-brass tailpiece.

The thick celluloid pickguard is super-inlaid with pearl and appears to have been an "off the shelf" bowlback pickguard.

Right, woods: mahogany back, sides, and neck -- ebony fretboard (and the orig. bridge was ebony, too, but I'm using bone now) -- and spruce top. The top is actually bent over the braces which gives this instrument a "domed" construction like Larson instruments. The overall shape of the instrument recalls early Gibson As to some extent which this may have used as a sort-of pattern to draw from.

Nice, Martin-style "volute" diamond.

Fun "zipper" inlay down the back.

"J. Gindlesperger, Manufr. Kansas City, Mo."


Morebarn said...

What a cool instrument to learn on, Jake

Anonymous said...

Gee, are we looking at Oona's first 'real' instrument?


Antebellum Instruments said...

If'n she likes it, but she sure has a propensity towards double bass right now. :D